After three decades of "fast second," "stick to your knitting," and "the pursuit of quality" types of organizational philosophies, decision makers have come to realize that continuing innovation is the essential factor for organizational success. Although most organizations now appreciate the importance of innovation to their prosperity, the truth is that few are being very effective and efficient in producing innovation. Targeting innovative efforts is always difficult, and getting the organization's projects, resources, and culture aligned with each other and focused on the market is a formidable task.
Business history is replete with examples of organizations that have expended tremendous efforts on innovation programs that when brought to fruition had little direct value in the marketplace. The failure of Polaroid's "instant movie camera" in competition with video cameras, the limited success of Kodak's disc camera when it had to compete with improved electronic 35mm photography, the ill-fated venture of Exxon into the world of office machines, and Xerox's office automation system illustrate the fact that poorly conceived innovation projects lead to poor results. In fact, the improper focusing of innovation programs can be almost as dangerous to an organization as a "sit still" innovation policy.